“Part of what it is to be courageous is to see reality accurately and to respond well in the face of it." ~ Jonathan Lear

18 March 2018

Why the accusation ‘irrational’ is generally bogus

There is often a sort of dishonesty to the accusation that someone or something is ‘irrational’. It presupposes that the person making the accusation knows how the other person or group of people should act in order to be rational. It means taking the place of others and claiming authority over what they should be doing, on grounds of knowledge.

I’ve put ‘knows’ and ‘act’ in italics above because the idea of rationality combines these two generally different notions. Knowing something is a passive condition. It generally means knowing facts, so something that has already happened. Action is a different condition. By definition it is active, affecting the world and projecting into the future.

The idea of rationality connects the two, projecting knowledge into the future, going beyond the sphere of facts and connecting to ideas of causation: that when I do this something else follows. In football if I kick the ball in the direction of the goal I am more likely to score a goal than if I aim at the corner flag. This is rational, logical thinking. You may base it on evidence of an experiment in which players variously aimed at the goal and at the corner flag, so it has some basis in knowledge and fact, but it is still projecting into the future. When the time comes around when I kick the ball, there may be other factors intervening that your calculation didn’t take into consideration – like my foot turning inwards or a very strong wind blowing.

In this way, your rational instruction to aim at the goal isn’t completely secure. But it is still reasonable – and rational – for me to aim at the goal if I want to score a goal. You would be well justified in calling me ‘irrational’ for aiming at the corner flag.

The idea of rationality makes good sense in this situation precisely because it is a limited situation, because there is a specific goal in mind – to score a goal – and actors involved in action trying to achieve that goal. It is an isolated, strictly bounded situation with relatively few variables involved. The aim is clear and not contested.

Applied to politics, this idea of rationality starts to fall apart. After all, in politics our aims are often contested. The situation is not isolated and bounded like on a football field or in an experimental laboratory. Rather it opens out to the whole world. For Britain in June 1940, was the intention to achieve peace or to defeat the Nazis? Many chose the former and followed a perfectly rational course in wanting to come to an accommodation with Hitler. They had a clear goal in mind. But what about others, like Churchill? Were they being ‘irrational’?

The accusation could certainly be made, but would be unfair because Churchill was not aiming for peace at any cost. He had other things in mind, like defeating tyranny, maintaining Britain’s standing and independence in the world, and also personal glory. No doubt, some rationalists at the time claimed that these goals were themselves irrational, but was peace at any cost rational? Here we find the sphere of action, of causation and of different considerations widen out so far that rationality loses its moorings. Once we start trying to examine goals according to rationality, we enter an infinite regression, like the child endlessly asking ‘But why, Daddy’ until Daddy gives up and says, ‘Just because I say so’ or ‘Because it’s the right thing to do.’

Rationalists in politics tend to avoid asking these questions, of why they are trying to achieve what they are. It has already been decided (which is different to that they have decided) and they have work to do. They accuse others of being ‘irrational’ when these others have different intentions to theirs, as if other forms of activity and justifications are illegitimate. They are a bit like a football coach who breaks the bounds of the football field to demand rugby players stop playing rugby because playing rugby is a poor way of putting the ball in the back of the net.

Like this, rationality in politics relentlessly narrows down the possibilities of politics by only admitting certain forms of ‘in-order-to’ justifications. It implies a strict limitation of the ends that can legitimately be sought. Any alternatives appear as ‘irrational’ because they are not directed to the correct ends and are therefore unlikely to be effective at achieving them. But the rationalist is generally not self-aware enough to see this, so continues in all seriousness.

The dishonesty – and political power – in this approach relates to how the accusation is expressed, for accusers do not generally draw boundaries and narrow down to a particular situation of trying to achieve a set goal. The accusation that someone is being ‘irrational’ invariably stands alone, as absolute and universal, covering the whole of politics and of life. It claims the authority of knowledge, of causation, not bounded by the equivalent of the football field, but taking everything into account.

It is bogus, but it feeds into a sort of religious yearning we all have for certainty, for security – and for faith.

In this way, rationalism in politics is inherently irrational, which is a philosophical weakness, but a political strength, for it allows assertions to be made readily. It puts up a constant challenge to opponents to respond, which they may not be in a position to do. Claims of rationality often require intellectual challenge. This takes time, attention to detail, the right language to engage politically and access to the public life.

At present, our political life is pretty dreadful at doing this challenging and facilitating it. For the most part, in the immediate situations of politics, assertions of rationality and accusations of irrationality pass by unchallenged, their authority unquestioned. I think we need to do better, and we could do worse than start with these three basic questions:

  • Whose rationality?
  • What are they trying to achieve?
  • What are they implicitly ruling out in the process?

Brexit is of course posed as the ultimate irrational act by many people at the moment. But who are they? What are their motives? What self-interest do they have in stopping it? On the level of their arguments, what do they think politics should be trying to achieve, and why does national self-government rule this out? What is it about national democracy that they would like to exclude from political life, and why?

Once these things start to emerge, then we can start having a more honest political debate.

There is a lot more to be said on this, but that is more than enough for now. Some of these thoughts were jogged into being by listening to the philosopher John Gray’s Desert Island Disks the other day. It’s well worth forty-five minutes of your time, both for the reflections and the music.

13 January 2018

On Brexit and the arts, Part II

I am continuing to see a lot of wailing and moaning about Brexit from the classical music and wider arts Establishments and thought it was worth a further word or two following my previous blogpost on Brexit and the arts, which seemed to go down well with a few people.

Barely a month seems to go by without another letter signed by the great and the good of the arts world railing against everything to do with Brexit and demanding that the government either cancel or dilute it so that the status quo is maintained. Moreover, we find major arts figures seemingly using every opportunity presented by their privileged public access to attack Brexit, implicitly or explicitly, as nasty, bigoted and nationalist.

I have mixed feelings about this. On the one hand I reject the idea that artists shouldn’t get involved in politics. The arts are part of the public world and therefore part of politics. To artificially separate them off from politics is itself a political act, an act of control which is against the spirit of art. However, on the other hand I think their stance doesn’t reflect well on artists and those who oversee them. It shows the opposite of a lively, spirited, independent arts scene. It shows one that is locked in to established networks of money and power and whose priorities have merged into the priorities of these networks.

This is understandable. After all, we all need to earn money to live, and hopefully to live well. But I don’t think the almost unanimous conformity we have seen from artists and impresarios necessarily makes for good art, let alone interesting political art. The views we hear from actors and conductors and painters are all more or less the same, as if on an echo loop. They don’t really have much of interest or originality to say, which isn’t necessarily a good thing if your business is being interesting and original. 

There is a more practical anti-Brexit case from the arts which deserves more attention though. For the art moguls and managers, as for many in business and technocratic occupations, this practical opposition to Brexit basically comes down to a defence of free movement. Free movement offers great flexibility to bring people in to work from anywhere, to travel freely and perform (or exhibit) anywhere in the EU without much if any trouble. The critic Norman Lebrecht has given the example of how the soprano Sabina Puértolas stepped in for a major part in the Royal Opera House's Rigoletto at the last minute, asking “could this possibly happen after Brexit?”

Opera singer Sabina Puértolas
This is a powerful case, no doubt, and it’s understandable that artists as well as arts organisations are worried about the future under a Brexit regime, especially a ‘hard Brexit’ where reciprocal arrangements are not made all in one go in a ‘deal’ with the EU.

But we rarely hear the other side of this argument expressed in public life, except from those who wish to attack it as (at best) ‘insular’, ‘inward-looking’ and ‘parochial’, in contrast to their ‘open and outward-looking’ stance.

Being open and looking outward is all very well, but you have to be somewhere to do that. If you are against looking inward at that place where you are, then you are basically justifying averting your eyes from the place where you are. You are justifying not caring for your surroundings and the people who surround you. To look inward at the nation would be to pay attention to it and perhaps look to address some of the issues that appear from paying attention.

For the classical music sector, looking inward might reveal its almost total withdrawal from the state education sector, falling concert attendances and its declining place in our public life. It might show up how it has been placed between a rock and a hard place – facing social and political demands to become more ‘inclusive’ at the same time when it is being shunted off into being more exclusive. Without training up a new generation of musicians (and therefore music fans) in schools and other places of learning, the future looks bleak in our country for the greatest music tradition the world has ever seen. Keeping on filling up the pot with people from outside can provide a short-term fix, but obscures the real issues that are bubbling under the surface and which those in charge of things prefer not to address while carrying on like before.

These issues are pretty much the same as those of other sectors in our society. We hear how the NHS relies on free movement, at the same time as the government has cut training for British nurses. British business sneers at British workers as lazy and unreliable, while continuing its fine tradition of not investing in training and new equipment, focusing instead on activities which require few skills and provide low wages with insecure employment. The juggernaut of English Premier League football has relied on a constant stream of foreign players, foreign managers and other staff while the grassroots of English football remains in a poor state, with poor facilities, few coaches and a Neanderthal playing style of kick-and-rush with minimal refereeing control.

I see Brexit as an instruction to our government to start paying attention, to start governing more, to start exerting more control over what happens in our country and start addressing its problems, which is what democratic governments should do. I especially see it as an instruction to reassert the relationship between citizens and government which free movement and the illegality of citizen preference within the EU so undermines. At the present time, in my view, our governments should be re-focusing their efforts on representing their citizens, the people that they are apparently answerable to in elections. They aren’t providing much of that representation if their actions (and inactions) promote a situation in which these citizens find themselves being repeatedly out-competed by those who do not share this relationship of supposed reciprocity.

A government which is happy to see you out-competed in your home country, not least in your ability to have a home in your home country, is not representing your interests. Our technocratic experts appeal to abstract economic rationales to claim the opposite, that generating wealth is a good in itself and provides compensation in the form of welfare and public services.  But this compensation is brought on by the reality of loss and defeat. Solidarity with our fellow citizens means according them respect, not compensation for our lack of respect.

Certainly, Brexit will not address this huge issue on its own, but it will give the opportunity to address it, and help to focus the minds of those who govern on . . . governing, rather than virtue signalling about how open and outward-looking they are.

10 January 2018

Virgin Trains banning the Daily Mail is another brick in the wall of the system of diversity

On one level Virgin Trains’ decision to stop selling the Daily Mail is quite a trivial matter. The company is a private business and can decide not to sell whatever it likes.

But there is also a serious aspect to this, for it shows how some of our major public-facing organisations (including businesses like Virgin and the retailer Paperchase) are explicitly taking the ‘progressive’, liberal-left side in our Culture Wars, and using what control they have over public space to stop the views of opponents from appearing.

According to the story in PR Week, Virgin Trains announced its decision in a memo to staff last year, saying,

“There’s been considerable concern raised by colleagues about the Mail’s editorial position on issues such as immigration, LGBT rights, and unemployment. We’ve decided that this paper is not compatible with the VT brand and our beliefs. We won’t be stocking the Daily Mail for sale or as a giveaway.”

As we can see, the statement is explicitly political, focusing on “the Mail’s editorial position” on “issues” rather than the paper’s sometimes unpleasant headlines howling about ‘MIGRANTS’ and the like. It says that the Mail’s stance on immigration, LGBT rights and unemployment are contrary to its brand and beliefs.

According to PR Week, the campaign group Stop Funding Hate seems to have had no part in this, but its influence is clear for all to see, providing a blacklisting template that anyone can pick up and follow, and for which any public-facing business is a potential target. It is the sort of thing that left-wing activists in Britain used to find themselves on the end of; but they are now in the vanguard in promoting it.

What is perhaps remarkable is how much of the private sector is only too happy to play along. But this is just another in a burgeoning list of examples of how the radical left and business interests have formed an alliance, bridged by the centre left/’centrists’ (including Blairites).

For me, this alliance is one of the political stories of our time. They are gathering principally around mass immigration, which both the left and the private sector want to continue, the left as part of its desire to maximise diversity and business in order to maximise competition and ensure a wide pool of labour (with the centrists believing in both for the most part).

On top of that, as the Virgin statement made clear, the company and its founder Richard Branson are very much in the branding business, for which virtue signalling over political issues is an increasingly popular tool. Last year for example, the retailer Jigsaw wrapped Oxford Circus Underground station in a pro-immigration ad campaign – another example of controlling public space so that the political views of this left-business alliance appear in public in a positive light while those of its opponents either do not appear or do so in a negative light.

Jigsaw's pro-immigration ad campaign, Oxford Circus station, October 2017
(photo from Tara Mulholland)

There is something systemic going on here, in the sense that the call going out from the activists is repeatedly finding a ready and enthusiastic response, not just from pro-immigration businesses but from all sorts of public institutions which are leveraging their access to public space (and their financial resources, including employment ability) to control what can appear in it.

The call and response goes both ways, dragging the two sides into a strange, and strangely comfortable, embrace. This is one thing that I explore in my book, The Tribe: the liberal-left and the systemof diversity, which is coming out later this year.

16 November 2017

Never mind Russian Twitter-bots, what about Obama’s Brexit fake news?

Several years ago I had the chance to go to the United States with a Labour Party group to canvass for Barack Obama in his re-election campaign.

It seemed like an attractive idea, but I decided against. For one thing I wasn’t a fan of the hero worship of Obama that many engaged in at that time. Also though, I felt that I would be an imposter there, that it was really none of my business, that it was the Americans’ election and not for me to rock up and tell them on how they should vote.

Colleagues told me that the reception on the doorstep was generally favourable and the Americans didn’t mind. But I was uncomfortable. I felt I would be an interloper. So I didn’t go.

Roll on a few years and Obama had no such compunction about coming the other way and lecturing the British on how we should vote in our EU referendum. Indeed in April 2016 our Prime Minister David Cameron placed a nice presidential podium in front of him to do so in front of a salivating press pack.

Barack Obama tells Brits to get with the programme

He didn’t disappoint, saying that the United Kingdom would be ‘at the back of the queue’ when it came to trade talks if it voted for Brexit. The Guardian gleefully reported that it was “an intervention that delighted remain campaigners” while its columnist Jonathan Freedland said, “It was the Vote Leavers’ worst nightmare" and that, “At a stroke, he had crushed not only a core part of the leavers’ economic argument.”

But Obama was telling a fib, or perhaps, if we want to be generous, he was fooling himself – all sponsored and signed off by both American and British governments. His words were that, “the UK is gonna be in the back of the queue,” which is an unequivocal statement of what is going to happen.  However, Obama’s term of office was coming to an end within a few months, so he wouldn’t be able to direct policy to follow his statement. Maybe the Democratic nominee Hilary Clinton would have stuck to his script if she had won the forthcoming election. But would she have followed through with it? Who knows? When politics changes, politics tends to change to match it.

As it happened Donald Trump won the election and Obama’s sincerely-delivered statement of what was going to happen proved to be nonsense. We might even call it a ‘bullshit’ or ‘fake’ statement, one which turned into ‘fake news’ in the relaying by mainstream media and the rest of us.

In this way, ‘fake news’ is nothing new, contrary to the agonised wailings of those who preside over our public life and have only started to notice it recently. What is perhaps new is that these people are no longer having it their own way in disseminating information/misinformation and controlling what happens in our political life. They have only become bothered about the process now that they have started to lose control over it by losing power.

...Which brings us on to Russia and its apparent attempts to interfere in the Brexit referendum and other Western elections through fake social media accounts and spreading fake news. I used to see tweets from at least one of these accounts pop up in my Twitter timeline quite regularly. ‘David Jones’ from ‘Southampton/Isle of Wight’ was a prolific pro-Brexit tweeter with more than 100,000 followers who apparently only tweeted during Russian office hours and when unmasked as a ‘Kremlin stooge’ promptly went private on his/her account.

I never engaged with this account, always finding it a little odd: maybe too prolific, too well organised and well-crafted for an ordinary human being. It fitted in rather too well, appealing to a right-wing social media consensus while not showing any of the real life presence that you would expect of someone so dedicated, articulate and popular in these circles (which aren’t blessed with many such people).

The subject of fake Russian tweets has been getting more and more attention on both sides of the Atlantic. Yesterday, The Times led with a story about how “Russian Twitter accounts posted more than 45,000 messages about Brexit in 48 hours during last year’s referendum in an apparently co-ordinated attempt to sow discord.” This was quickly subsumed into a gathering liberal-left narrative that Brexit was somehow the result of a Russian conspiracy and that Brexit voters were dupes, although some were a little more sanguine, with the Blairite commentator John Rentoul tweeting,

I'm more concerned about the David Joneses of this world, who manage to build up a large, trusting following over a long period of time. No doubt, this account would have helped drag some people over to the Brexit side during the months before the vote by helping build up a weight of force behind the Brexit cause that mainstream civil society was failing to provide for the most part.

This is a concern, but I find it difficult to get excited about it. Why? Because this sort of activity pales compared to the weight of political power mobilised by other international sources against Brexit, of which Obama is just one example. The IMF, the United Nations, the G20, international investment banks, seemingly the whole of the global Establishment was waged on one side, in an overseeing posture, demanding the British people do what they are told.

You might argue that they were doing so in plain sight and employing evidence to back up their demands, but this ‘evidence’ was typically the evidence of prediction. In order to present an anti-Brexit case, they predicted that Brexit would be a disaster. This power of prediction, wedded to their privileged access to the public through government news machines and the mainstream media, confers more than a degree of control over what can appear in the public sphere and how courses of action can appear to be attractive and unattractive.

In this way politics and opinion comes to appear in the guise of knowledge and fact, which apparently cannot be challenged.

But, as we might see with Obama, knowledge of the future is a contradiction in terms. There is a dishonesty here, but it is an officially-approved dishonesty, one which gets platforms and podiums and mass media coverage and red carpets rolled out for it on a daily basis.

It is the dishonesty of a global Establishment, against which the dishonesties of a few clever Russians tweeting fake news from St Petersburg troll farms seems a concern, but trivial.

11 November 2017

A book is on the way

I have just finished writing a book. The title is ‘The Tribe: the liberal-left and the system of diversity’ and it will be published between August and November 2018 by Imprint Academic.

The Tribe picks up on many of the themes I have been exploring on this blog about the politics of identity. However, it reaches towards a wider understanding of what is going on: of how and why the politics of gender, skin colour and other forms of ‘fixed’ and quasi-fixed identity have come to dominate our public sphere in recent years.

This is where the idea of ‘the system of diversity’ comes in. With this idea, I am not talking about the sort of social system which covers the whole of society like some accounts of capitalism, patriarchy and colonialism do. Rather, the system of diversity appears as a system of relations, which offers possibilities – for involvement, inclusion, social approval and also material reward.

The system exists where and when these relations exist and where those possibilities are grasped and offered out again; its limits can be found where those relations do not exist and/or the possibilities not grasped. As I have been writing it, a lot of the political activity happening within the system is dedicated to attacking those who appear outside it, which helps draw us towards the system by making being outside it appear unattractive and unpleasant, in contrast to the ease of acceptance to be found inside.

The progressive ‘liberal-left’, as 'the tribe’ of the title, appears in the book as an identity group in its own right which presides over this system, not least through its dominating presence in many of our major institutions. One marker of this tribe is that it politicises other forms of identity than its own, fixing us to forms of apparently fixed identity, distinguishing favoured groups from unfavoured on the basis of skin colour, gender and other things.

All of this hasn’t been easy to write about. There are many subtleties and complexities to the system that I have discovered while working on it. Also, lashings of new evidence appear daily in our public sphere which is difficult to keep up with, as with the recent #MeToo phenomenon and the ‘Pestminster’ scandals. While writing, I have been constantly interrogating my ideas against what has been going on. I am sure those ideas stand up. But there will be plenty of debates and arguments to be had, that is for sure.

The book has ten chapters, including an introduction that explains the basic ideas and shows the system at work through examples from our politics and wider society. Then Part I considers how identity works in the system, looking at the liberal-left as an identity group and the situations of the favoured and unfavoured groups that it politicises. Part II addresses the capturing of our major institutions and the controlling of speech and language which helps the system to consolidate its power, including over what can appear as true. Lastly, there is a chapter offering some thoughts on how we might respond to the system.

I hope the book offers readers plenty of food for thought. I think it will. I also hope it stimulates others to build on its ideas and take them off in additional, interesting directions. We shall see . . .

I owe some thanks to this man Shostakovich and also Vaughan Williams and others for helping me to get through the writing of The Tribe in one piece, just. I guess, in difficult situations and in thinking about difficult subjects, sometimes more difficult forms of music can speak loudest.

9 June 2017

On Labour's success in the General Election and implications for Brexit

Labour hasn't won the General Election, but it feels like it has, and has good reason to feel that way. Theresa May called the election believing that she would batter Labour into virtual irrelevance. But circumstances - and the voters - had other ideas.

I try to avoid predictions, but like most people I was pretty confident that May would win a decent majority yesterday even after all her wobbles of recent weeks.

Her weaknesses certainly have a lot to do with the result. Early on after she called the election she was way ahead of Labour in the polls, but the campaigning has found her out. She is clearly not a happy campaigner and not a people person. Her strengths seem to be in making carefully calibrated and calculated political interventions, as she has done with a handful of impressive speeches on Brexit. During the campaign she came across as wooden and fearful, which isn't a good look for a leader, let alone one running a quasi-presidential campaign saying 'Vote for Me', not us. Then when the terrorist attacks came, she did her thing but was quickly exposed by Labour on police cuts and didn't have the flexibility and political skills to respond.

Which brings us on to Labour, for its success is not just down to the weaknesses of its opponents. Credit to Jeremy Corbyn, though I'm the opposite of a fan of his, he ran a positive campaign with a positive manifesto offering hope. In the process, and with Labour 'moderates' shutting up, Labour managed to sidestep its divisions and piece together a coalition of voters that was enough to pick up 40% of the vote.

There was clearly a 'Corbyn effect', energising and enthusing younger voters as well as old lefties, and taking advantage of the Greens calling so much for a progressive alliance, thereby basically telling their people they may as well vote Labour, which many did.

However, I think most observers neglect the strength of the Labour machine, which was built up during the Kinnock and Blair-Brown years and is expert at targeting voters, manufacturing simple messages, tailoring them to different demographic groups and rolling it all out in co-ordinated, basically effective local campaigns.

In this way Labour managed to, somehow, square the circle on Brexit, at least in electoral terms. The idea that the election was a rejection of Brexit seems misguided (probably willfully for the most part), not least given prominent Brexit campaigner Kate Hoey's thumping victory in the heavily-Remain-voting Vauxhall constituency - when she had a highly personal campaign waged against her by the Liberal Democrats in league with Gina Miller and other prominent Remainers. For Remain supporters, Labour did offer something though; it opposed Theresa May and her apparent 'hard Brexit' strongly. However for Leave voters it offered something too: accepting the referendum result and agreeing to the trigger of Article 50 - thereby partially neutralising the focus of May's campaign even before she got into trouble over her manifesto and terrorism/police cuts.

To me, Labour's position on Brexit looks incoherent as actual policy, since its people say they want Single Market access while also wanting some kind of vague end of free movement while also maintaining they couldn't walk away without a deal. These aims seem incommensurable if taken seriously. I would guess they derive from a compromise trying to keep three different forces within the party happy. These are the following:

  1. The likes of Corbyn and John McDonnell who understand that Brexit could open up more opportunities for the exercise of national government and quite like the idea, but know they need to keep their EU fan activists and MPs on board;
  2. Those people (and Labour has plenty of them) who do not understand negotiations and genuinely fail to realise that you have to be prepared to walk away in order to get a 'good' deal;
  3. Those who are connected into the Mandelson-Blair project which links in to George Osborne and a few other Tories, some Liberal Democrats and also into the EU, who can see Brexit unravelling if Britain refuses to accept a deal offered by the EU. In this way they want to guide us to that point while indulging their more naive party colleagues that a hard Brexit would be disastrous so should be ruled out altogether. I don't know anything about this personally, but I would assume Keir Starmer as Labour's Shadow Secretary on Brexit is plugged in to this group.

What happens next I have as little idea as anyone else, but there is no doubt that these anti-Brexit forces are now strengthened. Labour may have voted to trigger Article 50, but it is not fully committed to Brexit and the positions it takes could easily dilute it to the point of not actually happening. Those positions will now have a greater influence on what actually happens. The Blair-Mandelson-Osborne-Clegg project could yet win out by the back door, which is rather apt given that neither of them are sitting MPs any longer.

26 May 2017

On Bullshit - that British foreign policy causes terrorist attacks

The idea that British foreign policy somehow caused Salman Abedi to go and kill children in Manchester is so stupid that on one level it seems offensive to even discuss it.

Yet this idea is strongly present in our public life, promoted by Islamist organisations like CAGE and recycled by countless left-wingers, including – in diluted form – by Jeremy Corbyn in a speech he is to deliver today.

As Corbyn will put it, “That assessment in no way reduces the guilt of those who attack our children. Those terrorists will forever be reviled and held to account for their actions.”

It is a fair point to make that there is a difference between causation and blame. That basic distinction applies also to immigration, for which we can say runaway housing costs and pressure on public services are partly caused by increased numbers of people but this does not mean that incomers are in any way to blame.

The trouble is politically, whereby figures like Corbyn highlighting this link feeds into a widespread narrative that takes foreign policy is the cause, a single cause, rather than a contributing, motivating aspect (or excuse) in some cases. Coupling this with saying that attacks like Manchester are ‘nothing to do with Islam’, you end up with a situation in which terrorists’ religious justifications for doing what they do are discounted, except as a form of determinism, of provocation and response. Their agency is pushed to the margins in favour of an account of causation in which Britain or the West or non-Muslims always appear as subject while Muslims are objects simply doing what the subject causes them to do.

This explanation is a negation of morality and ethics. It also barely qualifies as a truth claim. Indeed, it seems to me that addressing the truth isn’t the point to it. The 'foreign policy' explanation not a lie so much as bullshit, intended to deceive and draw people towards a certain way of seeing the world. It is political.

As Harry Frankfurt put it in his wonderful little essay, ‘On Bullshit’,

“However studiously and conscientiously the bullshitter proceeds, it remains true that he is also trying to get away with something. There is surely in his work, as in the work of the slovenly craftsman, some kind of laxity which resists or eludes the demands of disinterested and austere discipline.”

He added, “It is just this lack of connection to a concern with truth - this indifference to how things really are – that I regard as of the essence of bullshit . . . the essence of bullshit is not that it is false but that it is phony.”

People using the ‘British foreign policy’ explanation are playing politics rather than attempting to tell a truth. With sometimes admirable motives, albeit in the process sacrificing concern with the truth, they are attempting to draw attention away from the religion and the religious group and towards something that treats both of those things as victims and as virtuous.

This is also what Islamist politics and Islamist organisations are trying to do of course, though with not such admirable political motives.

It is concerning the way that other major institutions, including large parts of the Labour Party, have fallen into recycling the same bullshit that they do.